Parks and Recreation Image


Juneau-Douglas City Museum


Roberts, Barbara (Winn)

by Betsy Roberts Swanson
UID=1028


Barbara Winn Roberts was born at St. Ann’s Hospital in Juneau on February 9, 1916. Her parents were Grover and Bess Winn and their first home was at Second and Franklin. Her great uncles carried her mother to the hospital on a stretcher, over ice and snow.

Barbara’s father, Grover Cleveland Winn, came to Juneau around 1893. His father, William Winn or the “Colonel” and his brothers opened the Opera House, which was a saloon. William Winn’s first wife was Polly Milbourn and after she passed away, William married her sister Anna. William built two houses on Second Street. William died at a young age and Anna, his widow, built more houses with her inheritance. She lived on the income from the rentals and later opened a small millinery shop.

Barbara’s mother, Bess Anderson Winn, was from an early pioneer family who traveled over the Oregon Trail and settled in the Walla Walla area near the town of Waitsburg, Washington. Bess met her husband Grover at the University of Washington. Grover was in the first graduating class of Juneau High School in 1904. Grover attended the University of Washington and graduated with a degree in law. Bess and Grover married and moved back to Juneau. Barbara had a younger sister Susie Winn Hermann, who is deceased, and a brother William Winn, who lived in Juneau until he died in 1991. When the Winn children were young, Barbara and her brother Bill lived near the funeral home on Second and Gold. They went to all of the funerals until the undertaker asked Bess Winn to keep her children at home! Barbara’s parents are buried in the family plot in the Evergreen Cemetery.

One of the houses in which Barbara lived was on Fifth and East Streets. She remembers playing on Starr Hill, Mt. Roberts and exploring the Basin Road and the road to Perseverance. Barbara used to hunt the Basin with Sunny Lund and Joe McLean. Once, Sunny shot a cinnamon bun out of Joe’s hand, just to see if he could do it...and he did. Barbara spent her young adult years hiking the mountains around Juneau-Sheep Creek, Mt. Roberts and Mt. Jumbo. She skied on Douglas Island winning the downhill competition and cross country. In high school, Barbara played on the basketball team that brought home the trophy for the Southeast Alaska region. She was also an avid reader and a member of Rainbow Girls. Her mother, Bess, had a Stikine River Bear Dog. This type of dog would bite a bear in the leg tendon and cripple it. It was a small dog with long hair. When the first one died, she went to Wrangell, up the Stikine River and purchased another Bear Dog.

President Warren Harding came through Juneau on his way north to dedicate the Alaska Railroad. The Governor had a reception at his home for the President and all of the school kids were invited to file through the mansion and shake the President’s hand. Barbara’s brother Bill filed through many, many times until Mrs. Harding noticed him and he was sent back to school.

Barbara still sees some, and remembers a lot, of her friends from Juneau - Jim Pegues, Sunny Lund, Joe McLean, Jeannie Faulkner Lowe, Missy Mullin, Maxine Lund, Mary Vanderleest, Jeannie Vanderleest, Carol Robertson, Duncan Robertson, the Simpkin girls and many others.

Barbara graduated from Juneau High School in 1934. She attended the University of Washington and the University of Alaska. She also worked in the Governor’s office helping the pioneers register for Social Security. Father Kashevaroff from the Territorial Museum helped her with the identification of the pioneers.

Barbara Winn married Bill Roberts in November 1938. He was a mining engineer, which took them to many parts of the world including Nicaragua, Telluride, Colorado, Idaho and Washington. Barbara returned to school and received a Master’s of English/Education from Whitworth University. She taught for the Spokane Public Schools until she was 70 years old. She has three daughters, Betsy Swanson (Seattle), Kitty Kennedy (Spokane), Jeannie Roberts (Seattle) and two sons, Bruce (Los Gatos, California) and Jay (Coronado, California). She has twelve grandchildren and two great grandsons.

Barbara has lived in Spokane for the past fifty years. She enjoys spending her summers at her lake cottage at Priest Lake in northern Idaho because it reminds her so much of the beauty of Southeastern Alaska.